What Heroes, Santa Claus and Great Sex Have in Common
PLEASE NOTE: This story is a preview of Lubrican's Holiday Anthology. It is available for purchase in its entirety, which includes two other stories, via
It was a normal morning, or at least I thought so. Thanksgiving was over, with its parade of seldom seen relatives, and the required polite attention as they "caught up" with what everyone had been doing.
It was a Saturday, and it had snowed six inches, the night before. That meant the kids were all outside, bright and early, getting thoroughly cold and wet, and loving every second of it. Their mother and I loved it too, because it meant a very rare opportunity to celebrate the memory of how those kids had come to be. Sex in the morning is fabulous, when you can get it. At this stage in our lives, it meant sucking on months-old peppermints from Pizza Hut, kept on the night stand for just such an occasion.
But, when you're enjoying great sex, who cares about stale peppermints?
Of course great sex, at our ages, and after twenty-five years of marriage, doesn't necessarily mean long, drawn-out sex, which was good, that morning, because the kids came stampeding back into the house, wet, cold, and complaining.
I got up, still panting slightly, threw a piece of oak into the stove and cracked open the air vent, to get it going. My wife was like a General, marching the troops, as she ordered them where to shake off the snow, and where to put items of clothing as it fell off of them, until they could all scamper close to the wood stove, turning in slow, measured circles, pausing to let whatever side of them was facing the stove get warm before turning another ninety degrees. I stood and watched my naked children, and smiled as I thought of rotisseries.
June was seven. She was "our little accident", though she was a gift we treasured. I noticed her big sister, Fran, was growing up fast. They all grow up fast, but Fran astonished me. I knew she was fifteen, but she'd always been my little girl, even when June came along. When had she grown those breasts!? And hips!? And hair!?
Modesty had never been a strong suite in our home. It wasn't planned that way. I'm hot blooded, and can sweat in air conditioning, so I ran around like a nudist as soon as we got married. Jill eventually joined me, both because she said she felt so overdressed around me, and because it led to the kind of fun she was interested in, and married me for. At least partly. When the kids came along, first Brad, and then Fran, two years later, the only reason to cover them was to avoid wet or smelly accidents. Once they got potty trained, it just never occurred to us to put something on them, unless it was cold.
It occurred to me, quite suddenly, that we had two teenagers, standing around the wood stove, stark naked. It was the first time I'd recognized them as anything other than ... Frannie and Brad.
I surveyed my seventeen year old son. Almost a man, he had already tested me many times, in the time-honored tradition of the young bucks testing the old bulls, pushing limits here, stretching the rules there, seeing if it was time to formally challenge the leader. He was a good kid, with a good heart, though. And it was normal, so I didn't worry about it.
I saw his eyes flicker to his middle sister. He was normal in that way too. He'd seen her naked all his life, but with her recent development, and the fact that fall and winter usually meant everybody was covered up, he was discovering her maturity just like I was.
The reverse was true. Frannie was checking him out too.
My wife, always more vigilant than I thought she was, also noticed.
"Fran, don't stare at Brad's penis. It's not normal."
"Mom!" moaned a very embarrassed, and suddenly very pink-all-over fifteen year old girl.
"And Brad," said my wife, ignoring the wail from her daughter, "don't ogle your sister."
"Yeah, right," snorted Brad, his eyes flickering from Fran's pink-nippled breasts to the light brown fuzz between her thighs. "Like I'd be interested in doing that!"
June, of course, with her genius mind, simply turned and watched and listened. In most families, a seven year old, with a brother and sister twice her age, would be at a serious disadvantage. But June was as smart as both of her siblings put together, and neither of them got more than an occasional C in school. Even then it usually meant they didn't like the teacher, instead of the course material being too hard for them.
"In fact," said my wife, crossing her arms below her breasts, hidden by the robe she was wearing, "all of you go get dressed."
There was a chorus of complaints, made to sound like they didn't want to leave the immediate warmth of the stove. They didn't fool us, though. I tried to remember if I'd ever "had a talk" with either of the older ones. I decided I hadn't, and that it was probably way past time. Just like I probably had in the past, I put it off for another time.
"Do what your mother says!" I ordered, in my most rough, alpha male growl.
They went, though they sure didn't scamper in fear, or respect for the old bull's position in the herd.
Breakfast got them back out of their rooms in a hurry, all appropriately covered. When had it suddenly become necessary for them to be ... appropriately covered?
Jill and I, still in our robes, presided over a nice family breakfast, which was going just fine until June said: "Daddy, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, baby," I said, ready to dispense wisdom.
"Is Santa Claus real?"
It was a question asked millions of times, in millions of homes, by millions of kids hoping, usually against hope, that the answer would not devastate the dream. It always meant that, somewhere along the way, somebody had said he did NOT exist.
Of course any kid who has survived five or six Christmases has seen the movies that deal with the issue. But those are movies. Sooner or later, they go to the ultimate source.
That was me, in our family. I had a saying: "Dads know everything." It had worked pretty well for the first ten years. It was a little frayed around the edges these days. Both Fran and Brad knew more about the computer in our house than I could ever hope to know, and that wasn't the only chink in my armor.
"Of course he's real," I said instantly. "Why do you ask?"
Brad snorted. Fran sighed. They'd asked the same question, years back, and gotten the same response. In the years since then they'd argued with me, trying to convince me that Santa was just a kids tale. I'd stuck to my guns, and they'd eventually given up trying to convert me.
"People say he's not real," said June. She didn't go into all the arguments about there being hundreds of men in red suits all over town, or that elves didn't exist or any of that. She got right to the point.
I don't know where it came from. It hadn't appeared in my head when either Brad or Fran asked the same question, or tried to argue with me about it. But, suddenly, it was there.
"Do you believe in heroes?" I asked.
"Heroes?" asked June. "Like on TV?"
"No, not those heroes," I said. "I mean people who risk their own lives to help someone else ... in the real world."
"Like firemen?" she asked.
"Well," I said, "that's one example, but they choose to do that kind of work. I'm not talking about that kind of hero. I'm talking about the person who is at the right ... or wrong place, at the right ... or wrong time, and something terrible happens, and they decide to help, instead of run away, or look out for themselves."
"So policemen and soldiers wouldn't count either," said June, quite seriously.
"True," I said. "They're definitely heroes, but not the kind I'm talking about."
"I don't know anybody like you're talking about," said June.
"OK," I said patiently, "but do you BELIEVE in them? Do you believe they exist?"
"Right now?" asked my genius daughter. "This very instant?"
"Have they existed in the past, do they exist now, or could they exist in the future?" Going toe-to-toe with brilliance isn't always a fun ride.
"Of course," said my genius daughter.
"OK." I bored right on in, ready to make the kill. "Is there only one possible hero?"
"Of course not," said June. "Somebody like that would have to be Superman, and he doesn't exist."
I heard a snort from Brad. I looked up. Oddly, both he and Fran were paying attention. Neither had said anything yet, but I could just see the tenseness ... the willingness to jump in and help kill the dream.
"You are entirely correct," I said. "In fact, it's impossible to say who might be a hero, and who might not, until something happens. But the FACT is, that heroes exist, even if they haven't been heroic yet."
I felt a huge wash of relief. The first hurdle had been cleared. Acceptance was there.
"OK," I said. Now, what makes somebody a hero?"
"You already said that, Daddy," said June, patiently. "It's when somebody helps somebody else, and doesn't care if they might get hurt in the process."
"That's almost it," I said. "It's not that they don't care if they get hurt. It's that doing the right thing ... helping whoever needs help ... is the most important thing in that moment. They give of themselves, for the benefit of someone else. And they don't do it because they get paid to do it, or because somebody will give them an award, or anything like that. They just do it because it's a good thing to do."
I would have been fine if I'd have stopped there. But I was all wound up. I had glanced up and seen Jill, also listening, and seeing her there, with the front of her robe not quite completely closed ... which reminded me of that morning, while the kids were outside ... well I didn't stop there.
"It's like great sex," I added.
You know how you say something brilliant ... except that it's at the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong audience?
I blinked. Probably several times. I noticed that I suddenly had my older children's undivided attention. They weren't just paying attention. They were riveted. Never had I seen them so interested in something their old man had said.
You'd have thought they were triplets. All three of them said it at exactly the same time. It was almost three part harmony.
I looked at Jill, and felt my face take on what I knew was a pleading look.
"Don't look at me," said my life mate ... the woman I adored ... the mother of the very interested children at the table. "You got yourself into this. I can't wait to see how you try to get out."
She wasn't exactly on the Santa bandwagon, and hadn't been for years. She was much too pragmatic.
I looked at my children.
Brad, at seventeen, probably had more experience than I wanted to think about. Fran was irrevocably branded into my brain as an innocent virgin ... and always would be, though those perky breasts she had exposed that morning were like sandpaper, rubbing at that brand, trying like crazy to remove it. And June? She was only seven. That was WAY too young to be involved in a discussion of sex. I expected her to say "Ewwwww" and run from the table any second.
They all just sat there, waiting for what was coming next.
"Go on, Dear," my wife said, helpfully.
I tried to rein in my wildly gyrating mind. OK. We were talking in generalities here. I didn't have to go into the gory details. Dad's know everything. I could do this.
"I will!" I said, admittedly a little petulantly.
I looked at my children. Fran rarely went on sleepovers any more. But June did ... all the time. Anything I said would be repeated in a dozen bedrooms. There was no WAY some parent wouldn't hear about it ... whatever I said.
"That's good, Darling," said my entirely too happy wife, with an entirely too big grin on her face. "We're all waiting to hear about it."
When in doubt ... backpedal.
"OK," I said. I had to clear my throat. My mouth was suddenly dry for some reason. "It's like this."
I SWEAR ... they all leaned forward.
"Heroes don't think about what's good for them."
They all rocked back to their previous positions, looks of something close to disappointment on their faces.
"They think about what's needed for the other person," I barged on. "And they don't expect, or ask, to get any reward. They're just giving of themselves, for the good of the other person."
I was losing them.
"Great sex is like that too."
I had them back.
"When you're having great sex, it's all about pleasing your partner."
"Like how?" That was Fran, of course. Her eyes were actually gleaming!
How could I tell them that, when I worked on their mother's clitty, with my tongue and fingers, in that special way I had learned to do it, that her moans were like music to my ears. I couldn't tell them that! I couldn't explain that, when I slid into Jill's silky depths, and pushed in the way SHE liked, which didn't necessarily do all that much for me, the look on her face when she had an orgasm, and the feel of her hands gripping me, and her voice, telling me how much she loved me ... DID do something for me. I couldn't tell them that. It had to be generalities.
"That doesn't matter," I said. "What matters is that you understand that great sex isn't about what happens for you. It's about what you do to make sure it's special for your partner."
"Special like how?" Fran wasn't giving up easily.
I had to throw the older two a bone, or I was never going to get to the part I started out to get to in the first place.
"When you're a little older," I started.
She closed down like a book being slammed shut. I imagined dust flaking off of her.
"Tell you what. Let me finish with June's question, and then she can leave. She's a little young for that kind of stuff. Your mother and I will answer your questions then, OK?"
"Bob!" That was Jill. She wasn't looking too happy any more.
"We promise," I said, assuming the mantle of King. My Queen would just have to put up with my decree. She egged me on, after all.
"So what does this have to do with Santa?" June asked.
At that moment I loved our little accident.
"Well," I said, back on track. "Heroes do things for other people, and don't ask for anything in return. They care about those people, even though they don't know them. And usually, a hero is glad he did it. It makes him feel good that he helped somebody. That's not WHY he did it, but it usually works out that way. Great sex is like that, doing something for the other person, because you care about how your partner feels. You want to make her feel great, and that makes you feel great at the same time. That's how it is with your mother and me."
Now I got the "Ewwwwww ... Daaaad!" They were triplets again. I almost laughed.
"Now Santa ... his deal is just like that. He doesn't get anything out of giving presents. Milk and cookies don't count. I mean ... think about it. What does Santa get out of the deal?"
"He feels good?"
I was going to have to save more money, because June deserved to go to the best college on earth.
"Got it in one, baby," I said, happily.
"But that doesn't mean he exists!" she said, deflating me.
"Who is 'the hero'?" I asked. "Can you name the next hero?"
"Does it even matter who the next hero is?" I asked. It's not important WHO he is ... it's just important that he exists, when he's needed."
I had to tie it all together.
"And more than one couple can have great sex. Great sex can be had by anybody who tries to have great sex. It's all about caring more about the other person's happiness than about your own."
I got a nod from the love of my life, and a tiny smile. It kept me going.
"Santa is all about giving, without asking for anything back," I said. He's not a man in a red suit, or with a beard. He just wants to make people feel good that somebody cared enough to give them a gift. He doesn't want a thank you card. He doesn't want any credit. He just wants to give ... to make the world a happier place."
I tried to look sage.
"Just like there can be more than one hero, and just like many couples can have great sex, there can be more than one Santa. He exists in every person who donates clothes to the Salvation Army, or volunteers at a homeless shelter. He exists in every person who gives somebody else a secret gift, or does something nice for him, without telling him about it. Santa is as real as any hero, even if you can't walk up to him and shake his hand."
"So he's a metaphor." Sometimes my genius daughter was too smart.
"Is a hero a metaphor?" I asked.
"No, he actually does something."
"So does Santa," I said firmly.
"So the presents I get from Santa aren't from you?" she asked.
"They're from Santa," I insisted.
She rolled her eyes, but then she stood up and came over an hugged me.
"You're welcome, baby."
She turned to her siblings.
"Wanna go make a snowman?"
"Mom and Dad are going to talk to us," said Brad, his voice quite serious. "Maybe after that, OK?"
"Don't be too long!" she sang, dashing off to find her still-wet snowsuit, and climb back into it.
As parents, by and large, we don't really talk to our teenagers about sex. The "birds and the bees" doesn't really tell them anything about how to have a relationship. I know my parents never had a conversation with me, like I did with my teenagers that day. It was most difficult.
Actually, just starting was the hardest part. Once they were sitting there, alert and ready for the good stuff, I had to say something, and it had to be something that would resonate with two teenagers.
I decided to start with what I hoped would be a shocker.
"After we started having sex, it took your mother and I seven years, before we had great sex."
If I hadn't already had their attention, that would have gotten it.
"Sex is easy," I said. "You both already know the mechanics of it." I didn't give them a chance to deny that, and just stumbled on. "You already probably know how exciting it feels to touch and be touched ... to kiss and stuff like that. But almost all of that is selfish, when you first start out. You do it because it feels good to YOU ... it's exciting for YOU."
I looked over at my wife, who was being uncharacteristically silent.
"Your mother and I were in love, but we didn't really know each other, back then. And it took about seven years before we DID know each other well enough to begin to care more about the other person, than we did about ourselves. That was when we started trying to please each other in bed, instead of just ourselves."
"That's a little harsh," said my wife.
"No it's not," I argued. "It's normal. We had school to worry about, and friends, and then careers, and all of that took attention away from each other. We were so wrapped up in our individual plans that we didn't have the time to get really intimate ... to build a true romance."
"You were very romantic, back then," objected my wife.
"I was trying to get in your panties," I said.
I glanced at the kids, who still hadn't said a word. They looked a little shell shocked.
"That's what I'm talking about," I said. "The reason we don't want you two going out and having sex is because, right now, it would be a very shallow experience for you. You're not in love with anybody. You don't know anybody well enough to create the kind of intimacy that makes sex really great. If you've been experimenting with sex, I'll bet you felt guilty, or were worried you'll get caught. You don't have time, or the right setting to do things the right way. You don't know what your partner really likes, and your partner doesn't know what you like either, so you fumble around, trying to get something for yourself. That's not great sex. Having sex under those circumstances is really only complicated masturbation."
"I don't remember having any complaints," said my suddenly unhelpful wife.
Both kids looked at her like she'd grown a third eye.
"How long had we been married before we actually talked about oral sex?" I asked her.
The kids stopped breathing.
"Bob!" Jill objected, darting a look at the kids.
"How long?" I insisted.
"I don't remember," said my wife lamely.
"Four years," I said firmly. "It was on our fourth anniversary that I finally worked up the courage to ask you to do that."
"BOB!" moaned Jill, blushing bright red.
I looked at the teenagers.
"That's the whole point. Even now, we are embarrassed to be lovers ... to talk about something we've been doing for twenty years, and that there is nothing in the world wrong with for two old married people. All that stuff gets in the way even more, in the beginning. It's like picking up a guitar for the first time. You can make noise, but it's not music. You have to learn and practice. Now, at your age, if we call that guitar "sex", each time you pick up a different guitar, it's a whole new instrument, and you have to learn all over again. Our advice to you is to wait to learn how to play, until you have the guitar you think you'll keep forever."
I might have been fine if I'd have stopped there. I seem to have this affinity for going just one step too far. In this case, it was what I said next.
"Do you have any questions?"
We didn't go into excruciating detail. They wanted it, but neither of them was ready yet. What we DID do was promise them that, when they were engaged, they'd get the details. We promised to teach them how to have great sex, so that they wouldn't have to learn the hard way, like their parents did.
Something changed in our family that day. There was an openness that hadn't been there before. A thorny subject had been approached openly, or at least more openly than it ever had before, and things weren't as hard to talk about as they had been before. It was the start of a kind of communication that, I think it's fair to say, most parents don't have with their kids.
I'm glad we did it.
We don't teach our kids to be heroes either. Not really. We don't teach them to make the hard choice, because it's the right choice ... to do what NEEDS to be done, rather than what would be best for them in a particular situation. Some of that is normal, of course. We want them to be safe. But if they're in danger, we want someone else to help them. How can we ask that, and then not prepare them to do the same thing for someone else?
And Santa? We kill him. We kill him in the name of "responsible parenting", and then turn around and print bumper stickers that say "perform random acts of kindness".
Sorry. Every time I think about that day, and the world in which my kids have to exist, I get a little worked up.
The point is that even though I didn't set out to talk to my kids about what Santa, Heroes and great sex have in common, I did, and I'm glad I did.
I know you're not supposed to do these things for any reward. I didn't do it to GET anything. Not really. But Santa DOES exist, and when you deserve a little gift, sometimes he's there to take care of it.
I got mine after the older kids went out to help their little sister make a snowman. I was watching them, through the window, just enjoying seeing them working together, when Jill cleared her throat behind me. I turned to see my wife naked, standing hipshot, with one hand on her hip and the other extended. Her breasts sag a little, and that brown pubic hair that tickles my nose so much is a little bedraggled, these days. But she never looked as sexy as she did right then. Her index finger was making a little wiggle as she crooked it at me.
Well, to be honest, she wasn't quite naked.
She was wearing a Santa hat.
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